Archive for September, 2013

Make Change

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Parents and teachers! Have you kept abreast of education change? Figure on some profit; some loss, at least in the opinion of this blog’s writers.

In California, the state school budget contains more resources (i.e. money) than seen by district fiscal managers for six years. And since the November 2013 elections the Local Control Funding Formula is the new norm. Dollar signs fill the eyes as local teachers, parents, and district administrators make monetary decisions instead of waiting for state level legislative arguments to be solved.

Next big change this year is California’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In spite of considerable criticism, it’s also true that teachers are “back in control of crafting and tailoring the education of their students” (Dean E. Vogel, p.4, California Educator, September 2013). For example, critical thinking skills are the focus instead of teaching to a test.

How is change to happen? It turns out that the 45 states agreeing to implement the CCSS have opted to join one of two consortia. It isn’t clear how states chose the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCCA). Who can ascertain why California and western states associate with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium?

There is a group in each consortium that establishes the teaching and learning implementation of the CCSS for each state’s teachers; think school-year professional development, cycle of inquiry, or summer workshops, to name a few.

However, did you catch the word “assessment” in each consortium title? Aha! The flipside of the coin. If you read the website for each consortium, one of the purposes is to develop a new exam that assesses student proficiency with the new country-wide agreed-upon standards.

Already, quarrels are taking place. In California, high stakes testing is not the right thing to do when CCSS teaching is still being implemented. The State Board of Education has broached the U.S. Department of Education about a moratorium on test results for any purpose other than to inform instruction. New York City is consumed by an uproar about the poor results on last Spring’s student tests, taken before teaching with CCSS had been satisfactorily implemented.

Another argument absorbs the education world. Should a for-profit education company such as Pearson develop the exam used by millions of students? Pearson has developed a yearly standardized test for PARCCA. Or should a group of education testing experts develop and field-test once-a-year tests? Smarter Balanced leans in that direction. Along with development of once-a-year exams, the question of formative (given several times a year to assess progress) assessments is debated.

One more kink is likely to entangle the implementation of new assessments. Both consortia have designated that assessments be given on-line. Can you imagine the outcry about technological tools and IT support necessary? And the money needed to make change?

Keeping Tabs on Student Success

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Teachers and parents:

Is your state one of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)? Or a state in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium? Look it up! Not only are Common Core State Standards the new thing, but these consortia are devising new assessments to divine what children have learned.

Are you asking yourself how are these assessment results expected to be organized and secured? The latest brouhaha is about the system called inBloom, a nonprofit foundation that has offered a cloud repository where data can be gathered and kept for states and districts. It promises access to large swaths of data and efficient economies of scale, always a worry for education. InBloom is being field-tested by states in the PARCC consortium. New York City, two districts in Illinois, and one in Colorado are taking inBloom under consideration.

For Jefferson County Public Schools in Colorado, the most controversial questions about inBloom’s system deal with privacy and access. Look at these questions received after the last post was published on 8-29-2013.

Security Issues

  • Who will have access to the data, under what circumstances – in house and/or outsourced?
  • How will we know if unauthorized individuals have gotten access to data, both in-house and outsourced?
  • What will happen if a security breach occurs; how will security breaches be defined?
  • Who is liable for security breaches at inBloom; how will this be enforced?
  • How will the district manage compliance by inBloom with the district’s security policies?  What compliance staffing and tasks will be put in place?
  • How will Jeffco Public School data be separated from other districts’ data?
  • Why does inBloom insist on putting the data on their servers?  Why can’t the data be placed on local servers?
  • If a child leaves Jeffco PS, how is the data removed and guaranteed as removed?

Sharing Data

  • Will student data be shared with non profit, for profit, and research entities? Will parents be notified of any sharing?
  • Who will determine what is shared?  What will be the policies and rules around sharing data?

Parental/Guardian Access

  • According to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents can have access to their student’s file; will this be made automatic through inBloom so parents can audit the use and accuracy of their children’s data; if not, why not?
  • Who will make sure that kids with parents who have language, literacy or innumeracy issues receive the same parental services through the portal as kids with parents who speak English, read, do math, etc.?
  • What will be the value of the portal to parents who may not have computer access, internet access, or don’t understand the language or the meaning of lessons children are supposed to be learning?

Last, for any state or school district in the country determining a new data collection system that features Common Core State Standards, money is an issue.

  • What is the long term financial sustainability plan for inBloom?  How many students need to be in the system for inBloom to be financially secure?
  • What is the fall back plan if inBloom goes bust?
  • What is the long term financial relationship of the Gates Foundation and other foundations to inBloom?